With the Andes stretching its entire length, Peru is ideal trekking holiday destination.
Peru offers some of the most magnificent and varied trekking in the Andes chain, ranging from three days to two weeks.
Here we offer advice and ideas on the best treks throughout Peru.
Don your boots, and set off on your adventure walking holiday.
Trekking in Peru – an introduction
In Peru, we find a number of the mightiest snow peaks outside the Himalayas, with major concentrations of 6,000m/19,685ft peaks in 4 ranges:
In the spectacular Cordillera Blanca, there are some 30 peaks above 6,000m – including Huascarán, Peru’s highest (6,768m/22,206ft) – and the largest concentration of tropical zone glaciers on Earth.
The Huayhuash range contains a cluster of stunning peaks, of which the highest, Yerupajá (6,634m/21,766ft), is Peru’s 2nd highest. An awesome trekking circuit loops the entire range.
The Cusco region
The Cordilleras Vilcabamba and Vilcanota near Cusco provide some of the best and most varied trekking in Peru, from breathtaking tundra to steaming sub tropical jungle.
The Vilcabamba, criss-crossed by Inca paths linking enigmatic ruins, offers trekking routes of varying lengths, from the Inca Trail to the Choquekirau traverse.
Vilcanota, characterised by scattered llama-herding communities, is dominated by Ausangate (6,384m/20,946ft).
A single trek in any of these ranges can combine icy tundra with temperate valleys and cloud forest.
Remote archaeological ruins are often a feature, as when exploring the little-known Chachapoyas region in Peru’s forested extreme north, or the mythical realms of Vilcabamba.
The best trekking months in Peru are May to September, when warm, dry days coincide with cold nights; night temperatures can drop a few degrees below zero at high camps.
April and October/November hold afternoon shower risks, but nights are milder than May to September (these months are also the quietest in terms of numbers).
December to March is the wet season in the Andes.
The Cordilleras Vilcabamba and Vilcanota
The mountains and valleys of the Cusco area provide high passes, breathtaking snow peaks, sub-tropical jungle and some excellent & varied trekking. The Vilcabamba Range to the north of Cusco is criss-crossed by finely-engineered Inca paths only recently reclaimed from the Cloud Forest.
These interlink many enigmatic ruins, the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu being the best-known, and one of our most popular treks.
The Inca Trail trek is deservedly the most famous footpath in South America, and we offer both a standard and luxury service. It has everything: gorgeous mountain scenery, cloudforest and lush sub-tropical vegetation with numerous species of flowers, a stunning final destination in Machu Picchu and, above all, the Inca remains that give the trail its name.
There are Inca paving stones, Inca stairways, an Inca tunnel, and of course the ruins: Runkuracay, Sayacmarca, Phuyupatamarca, Huiñay Huayna (Wiñay Wayna) and Machu Picchu itself.
Community tourism is a strong concern for us. Andean Trails makes a donation to a Porter’s Community Project near Cusco for every person that books the Inca Trail through us. Currently, this money is being used to buy school equipment in the towns and villages where our porters live.
Alternative Inca Trails
We also offer alternative treks to the Machu Picchu ruins.
You can trek the Salkantay route, a rugged rout, a stunning high-mountain walk with great views of the big snow-capped peaks in the area and ending at Machu Picchu. We offer a camping version and also a luxury, lodge-based version.
The Lares trek goes through a traditional weaving & farming area close to the Sacred Valley. You will see people dressed in authentic highland Peruvian clothing, farmers at work, herds of llamas etc. This trek is beautiful and not as tough as Salkantay but incredibly beautiful and rewarding. There is also a lodge-based version.
And we also have Huchuy Qosqo, a fantastically varied and short trek with Inca Trails and the Qosqo ruins. You enjoy a hearty evening meal cooked by a local host at Huchuy Qosqo, whose home is your shelter for the night, and see a wide variety of local flora and fauna.
The Ausangate range
The Vilcanota Range, located 100km south of Cusco, is dominated by the 6,384m Ausangate, and conceals scattered communities of traditionally-dressed Indians tending llamas and alpacas.
We offer a community-run, lodge-based trek here, as well as a camping option.
In Ausangate, you encounter llama herders, stunning rock colours and formations, dramatic peaks and hardly any hikers.
The Cordillera Blanca
Worldwide, only the Andean range offers the mountain grandeur of the Himalayas.
Within the Andes, the Cordillera Blanca has few peers; with some 30 peaks over 6,000m/19,685ft, including Peru’s highest, Huascarán (6,768m/22,205ft), the Cordillera Blanca is the world’s highest tropical mountain range with the greatest concentration of tropical zone glaciers.
It also boasts some of the most magnificent scenery in the Andes. Blanca treks below start and finish in Huaraz.
The Santa Cruz Trek
Santa Cruz is the classic trekking route of the Cordillera Blanca. As well as showcasing some wonderful scenery, this route allows a relatively gentle ascent helping acclimatisation.
The Punta Union pass (4,750m/15,584ft) offers awesome panoramas.
The trek includes the Portachuelo de Llanganuco viewpoint (4,765m/15,633ft), a spectacular vantage point to take in views of some of the Blanca’s best-known snow peaks
This 135km / 84 miles trek, one of the most complete and beautiful in the Blanca, is also (for long sections) one of the quietest.
It is so named because we get to see the pyramidal form of Alpamayo, voted the world’s most beautiful mountain in a 1960s poll.
Alpamayo takes us over seven passes of between 4,400-4,850m/14,436-15,912ft, with splendid views of many spectacular Cordillera Blanca peaks.
The route is technically straightforward but due to the long distance and altitude, demands good acclimatisation and physical fitness.
Route of the Condor – Quilcayhuanca/Ishinka
This exciting trek (45 miles / 70km approx.) takes in some of the most scenically dramatic and little-walked valleys and passes of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range.
Our Blanca takes us past numerous jewel-like glacial lakes and over two spectacular high passes (5,100m/16,732ft and 5,350m/17,553ft), and also provides excellent opportunities for sighting condors and superb mountain views throughout.
The Cordillera Huayhuash range
The Huayhuash rises dramatically from rolling grassland 50km / 30 miles south of the Blanca. It is a magnificent range, featuring – in a single cluster – a dozen dramatic ice-clad summits.
A mere 35 kilometres from end to end, the remote Huayhuash range boasts seven summits above 6,000m/19,685ft; the high point on this imposing profile, Yerupaja (6,634m/21,765ft), is Peru’s second highest peak.
The heart of the cordillera is a pristine wilderness, with towering snow peaks, glaciers and sparkling lakes vying for the attention.
The Huayhuash range is the setting for our spectacular, demanding and rewarding trekking circuit (190km / 120 miles), during which the range of altitudes (2,750-5,000m/9,022-16,404ft) and tropical latitude combine to reveal many Andean ecosystems.
From Llamac (start and finish point), we head deep into the pristine wilderness. We are soon amid mighty snow peaks.
This clockwise circuit takes us over nine high passes (between 4,650-5,000m/15,256-16404ft), with repeated panoramas of sheer, towering snow peaks. It also allows rewarding side trips into valleys and the option to ascend the non-technical, but physically challenging, Suerococha snow peak (5,350m/17,553ft).
Chachapoyas, a remote region of sub-tropical forest in Northeast Peru, is becoming famous for its mysterious pre-Inca archaeological sites.
The Chachapoyan civilization developed here around 800 AD, with ‘cloud people’ inhabiting ridge-top citadels in the cloud forest. Hereabouts, forest-covered ruins unknown to science are periodically stumbled upon.
We have a variety of treks through the heart of the Chachapoyas realm, some following a section of the great Inca highway (Qapaq Ñan) that connected Quito with Cusco, but all exploring rarely visited mountain fortresses.
MOUNTAINEERING AND CLIMBING COURSES
Whether you’re a beginner looking for an introduction or instruction, or a climber in search of new challenges, the Peruvian Andes have much to offer.
All expeditions, fully supported or not, are led by professional mountain guides with long experience in the specific mountain area.
Check our climbing tours here.
A number of snow peaks in Peru’s Cordilleras Blanca and Urubamba, as well as some volcanoes in Peru’s south, can be categorized as Trekking Peaks and may be ideal for your first ascent.
Usually somewhere between 5,000-5,800m/16,404ft-19,029ft in height, and requiring the use of crampons and ice-axe, these ascents, though physically demanding, are not technically difficult and do not require previous mountaineering experience.
Three-day non-technical ascents (including hikes to and from the mountain) include Pisco, Ishinka and Maparaju, among many others.
Pisco (5,752m/18,871ft) and a two-day ascent of Arequipa’s El Misti volcano (5,800m/19,029ft) are excellent choices for the first-timer, the mountaineer with limited experience on snow and ice, or as an acclimatisation peak for climbers going on to higher peaks.
A two or three-week itinerary can be designed to incorporate one or more trekking peaks into a trek.
Mountaineering skills course
The aim of our six-day course, in the Cordillera Blanca, is to teach a range of fundamental mountaineering skills.
During the course, which takes place at around 5,000m/16,404ft on one of three glaciers, we aim to develop the techniques required to prepare aspiring climbers, with little or no mountaineering experience, to be contributing team members on glaciated mountains.
We begin by looking at the many hazards snow peaks present, and then systematically teach the skills and techniques necessary to help you climb and enjoy the mountains.
Areas covered are self-arrest, climbing knots, rope team travel, snow and ice anchors, belay systems, crevasse rescue, top-rope management, an introduction to vertical ice climbing, route finding, hypothermia treatment and prevention, and glaciology.
And the finale is a guided climb of Yanapaqcha, where you put your new skills to the test.
Climbing near Huaraz
For mountaineers with more experience we can provide qualified local mountain guides and full back-up teams.
Here to help
Andean Trails provide fully-supported treks which include good camp food, transportation of kit by donkey or porter, emergency horse, professional trek guide, assistant and cook, good mountain tents and sleeping mats, mess tent, tables, stools and a toilet tent. Then again, if you are happier with the bare minimum of services, we can arrange that too.
For most treks a basic level of walking experience and a good level of fitness are the only requirements – these do vary from trek to trek.
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